Veggie Pad Thai (Vegan)

Happy 2018, friends!

What a whirlwind it’s been… already back to work. With the temperature in the single digits, neither my dog or myself wanted to get out of bed this morning. It will be good to get back into the swing of things and to get back into more of a routine.

One thing I like about the New Year is the initiative everyone starts with to invoke some change into their lives. While I hate the tired mantra of “new year, new me”, I’m going to carry through with my new year’s intentions of improving myself, and sticking with them. A reminder – they aren’t resolutions. there’s nothing broken about me that needs fixing. Think of yourself as a fine precious metal, or a prized trophy, a timeless heirloom piece of silver … you’re still the same you were, inside and out, but by polishing yourself up, you suddenly see yourself in a different way, which is the start of something great.

#1 – Self Care

My first intention for 2018 is to make sure I’m taking care of body the best way I can. Some people take this and run with it to the farthest extreme… which might just be the quickest way to set yourself up for failure.

“I’m cutting out all carbs for 2018!”

“I’m going to the gym TWICE A DAY… until forever.”

“I’m never drinking again. Ever.”

I had probably said all of these things at least once, myself. Here’s the problem: are you actually going to stick to any of that? Unless medically necessary, is this all realistic? No. My goal for the year is to prioritize my health first by maintaining the best habits from last year, and swapping out alternatives for things I wanted to  change. Instead of indulging in a big salty bag croutons to snack on (yes, I do actually do that… without salad…), I’m going to make sure I have veggies and homemade hummus on hand at work at home. I treated myself to a fun new water bottle so I’ll be more inclined drink more water. Which brings me to my next intention…

#2 – Buy only what I need

If you have ever met me, you know that I love to shop. I will shop for anything, anyone, anywhere. I have tons of crap I don’t need, and have the audacity to say “I have nothing to wear!” as I stare at a rather large walk-in closet filled with clothes I can’t even remember I have. I’ve worked at White House | Black Market for several years now, and even still, I’ll walk in and see another associate wearing something and comment that I like it, only to be reminded that I bought it 3 weeks ago. I’ve bought duplicates by accident of salad dressings, dish soap, bread (why am I buying bread???) ziplock bags, only to see that I didn’t need them. My intention for this year is to actively keep inventory of what I have, so that I don’t overbuy, overspend and overindulge. I should hopefully have a fatter bank account and less clutter.

#3 – Do stuff that actually makes me happy

To the tune of saving money, I’ve always been a stickler about expensive trips, or big ticket items. While I consider myself a money-saver in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been so obsessed over not buying large things that I’ve overlooked all the small stuff that quite possibly could’ve totaled up to a small fortune. I want to travel with my friends, I want to build a house, and just do things that I’ve wanted to do and never tried to. I want to make my cookbook eventually, and I want a great website for you all… of which I know costs money. No more wasting time, effort and money on things that don’t make me happy.

These are all things I’ve always liked to adhere to, but my intention is stick to them for 2018. If I slip up, it’s not the end of the world… I will just regroup and pick up where I left off.

What are some of your intentions for 2018? Let’s discuss over some delicious Pad Thai 🙂

Vegan Pad Thai

prep time: 25 min

cook time: 20 min

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

For the pad Thai:

  • 8 oz brown rice pasta
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced into strips, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cup red cabbage
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk green onions, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, loosely crushed
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • (optional for non-vegans!) 1 egg, scrambled well done and finely chopped
  • sesame oil, for frying

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ~1/4 cup of almond milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed or grated
  • 1/3 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice from half of a lime
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • (also optional) ~1 small squirt of sriracha for heat

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp sesame oil. Sauté red bell pepper, carrot and onion until starting to brown, stirring constantly; about 8-10 minutes.
  2. While sautéing the veggies, cook pasta per box directions. Drain, and set aside.
  3. Back to the veggies! Next, add snap peas and cabbage and stir so they can heat — we want these to remain crisp for  texture, so they’re added last.
  4. Separately, in a mixing bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. the consistency should be somewhat thin to spread across the noodles — similar to a salad dressing, not too thick. Depending on your preference, you can add more coconut aminos, lime juice or almond milk to keep the flavors strong while thinning out the sauce.
  5. Once  finished with the sauce, add noodles (and egg, if using) and sauce to pan and turn off the heat. Continue to stir gently… we don’t want the sauce to muddy the veggies with the sauce, so don’t be too rough. Serve immediately and  garnish with cilantro and green onion.

Enjoy!

-S

Mushroom Thyme Twice-Baked Potatoes (Vegan)

If you guys haven’t gotten the hint yet that I really love potatoes, you must not be paying a whole lot of attention. While white and yellow potatoes aren’t Paleo, they’re too important for me to give up… which is why I can’t eat a strict paleo diet. I try though… so, perhaps I can get an honorary mention for that.

The weather took a turn and it’s been super chilly recently — another reason to carb-load like a little hibernating animal (which I wish I could do).  After a long work day, intense lifting at the gym, and battling rush hour traffic, let me come home to my potatoes. I grew up with my mom making these with real milk, butter and cheese — they were a staple of guest dinners and holidays, because they do take a bit longer than a quick throw-together meal.

I think my favorite part about these is how well they freeze and keep — you can totally make these ahead of time. Pull one (or a few) out, brush with olive oil and bake until hot. I’m trying to get into time-saving… I’m sort of tired of rushing around everywhere, but it seems to be the norm. My day starts at 4:30am – I get up, get ready, pack up for my day, feed and let my dog out, run around and figure out what I didn’t pack yet, and rush out the door, rush to work, run around at work, rush home to feed my dog, rush to wherever I’m going after work, rush home and take dog for a rushed walk, rush to cook dinner, rush and get ready for bed, and then pass out. Did reading that exhaust you? Because recapping my weekday exhausted me.

I think that’s a New Year’s intention I’m going to make. Note, I said “intention”, and not “resolution”, because resolutions are absolutes. Here’s why:

in·ten·tion

/in-ten-shuhn/ (noun)

an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

While resolutions are done in anticipation, they speak from a place of fixing what’s wrong, rather than just adding to your life to make things better. Things change, your life evolves, and your goals at the beginning of the year may not really align with where you want to be at the end of the year new things happen. Based on the above definition of intention, there’s much more association with cause and effect, and it’s more synonymous with change. Always leave room for change! Always leave room, period.

That’s my intention in and of itself; I need to give myself more time to just… do whatever. I work 60 hours a week, have several pets to care for, a very large family, and love to make time to cook… but unless I’m doing it at 3am, I have to make sacrifices elsewhere in my life, just to make recipes… and that doesn’t feel good when it’s something I love so much. However, I realize that the workweek  hours aren’t changing any time soon, my pets aren’t going anywhere… so I need to learn when to find balance. And that’s my intention. I’m approaching it with optimism, with positive thoughts for a positive outcome, and from the angle that I won’t beat myself up if I fall back into my own ways… I’ll just pick up where I left off, and try again to cut myself some slack.

Starting with thawing out last week’s twice-baked potatoes for a quick dinner that I don’t have to think about… it’s something, right?

Mushroom Thyme Twice-Baked Potatoes (Vegan)

Prep: 30 min

Cook: 1 hr 20 min

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 baking potatoes, washed and scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup vegan shredded cheese, such as GoVeggie Vegan Cheddar (available at Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated or pressed
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the olive oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through (poke with a knife or fork to the  center – it should be quite soft, but the skin should not yet be wrinkly).
  3. Meanwhile, while the potatoes are baking, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and mushroom, and continue to  cook, stirring so the garlic does not burn, for another 6-7 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown. Remove from heat.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the oven and set aside to cool a bit. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, gently scrape out the insides into a large mixing bowl, leaving a small layer of potato left (so it stays intact), being careful not to tear the shell. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet, and brush the skin side with olive oil. Place them back upright on the baking sheet.
  6. With a mixer or potato smasher, mash the potatoes so that the large chunks are all gone. Add the vegan cheese, almond milk, mushrooms, onions, herbs, salt and pepper (to taste) and mix together well.
  7. Fill the potato shells with the filling – they should be “over-filled”, and have a heap of mixture on them.
  8. Place back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Garnish with extra rosemary and serve… though it’s vegan, it does go quite nicely with Paleo Grilled Hawaiian Chicken, Maple Ginger Salmon, or even my all time favorite Garlic Tahini Kale, a.k.a. “No New Friends” Salad.

Enjoy!

-S